Founder of US drug company arrested

William D. Weinreb Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption William D Weinreb, acting US attorney in Massachusetts, announced the arrest

US authorities have arrested the billionaire founder of a drug company and charged him with leading a conspiracy to bribe doctors to over-prescribe a powerful painkiller.

The arrest of Insys Therapeutics founder John Kapoor follows years of investigation and actions against more than a dozen former Insys staff.

Mr Kapoor has vowed to fight the charges.

The suit comes as the US grapples with rising deaths tied to opioid abuse.

On Thursday, President Donald Trump identified the problem as a public health emergency.

William D Weinreb, acting US attorney in Massachusetts, said the charges, filed on Thursday, showed authorities are attacking the opioid problem at many levels.

"We must hold the industry and its leadership accountable - just as we would the cartels or a street-level drug dealer," he said.

An attorney for Mr Kapoor, 74, said he was innocent. He faces prison time and other penalties if found guilty.

Insys declined to comment. Shares in the firm - once a fast-rising stock - plunged by more than 20% after the charges were announced.

What are the charges?

Prosecutors said Mr Kapoor led the drug company's efforts to boost sales of Subsys, a spray intended for cancer patients experiencing intense pain. Subsys contains fentanyl, which is addictive.

They said the firm offered kickbacks and bribes to doctors and pharmacists who wrote "large numbers" of prescriptions for people who had not been diagnosed with cancer.

They said they also worked to defraud insurance companies over reimbursements for the medication.

Insys told investors in August that it has already paid millions of dollars to settle state investigations of practices related to Subsys and could pay more.

Mr Kapoor's charges add to a case filed against six top managers last year.

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